The emergence of social business as a new way of working is now mirroring the runaway popularity of platforms such as Facebook with its origins in youth culture. As I’ve been chatting with my kids and their friends, who are taking their first steps into the world of work, it seemed to me that a rich vein of breakthrough thinking may be available to their new employers.

The Up-and-Coming Generation Collaborate Online

A natural focus for their social life on the move

Am I alone in finding that it’s tough to get much response these days via email? Why is WhatsApp eating Gmail for breakfast? Generation Y hasn’t suffered email overload like their parents -- their email defaults to spam and the vast bulk of it is blissfully ignored.

What counts is quality, immediacy, connectivity and the ability to “pull” relevant content. Look at the emergence of micro-networks such as with its multi-lingual chat feature, where one million Lady Gaga fans have registered in the three months since its launch. Not so “micro” any more, it’s easy to see how networks such as this are going to be monetized. Enterprises seeking to drive value from their collaborative tools please take note.

They “Get” the Power of Collaboration Tools

They’re drawn intuitively to streamlined ways of working

An example came up in a specialist PR agency with a strong heritage of providing their clients with relevant briefings from the trade press. The business process works efficiently enough, but with quite a linear information flow based on well-worn traditions.

Knowing the power of automated online search, content filtering, aggregation and community-based forums, it seemed evident to my daughter after just a few days of work experience that more could potentially be achieved for and with the firm’s clients, at lower cost all round. New starters bring a keen eye for any wasted effort and are inclined to challenge anything too “clunky” to use in practice.

Sharing Valuable Knowledge & Experience is How They Learn

They’re schooled in exchanging authentic content via a high-quality network

Students are generally much bolder than their parents in publishing their thoughts and ideas; they welcome feedback and find it highly productive to be part of an open discussion. In guiding candidates through the recruitment jungle, employers seek to showcase how they have fully embraced the digital future: they realize how attractive that is to forward-thinking graduates.

But does the practical reality of career development live up to the hype? Are organizations still too dependent on personal/standalone content, which lacks up-to-date context and refresh, with multiple versions perpetuated through straggly email trails? Standalone content quickly gathers digital dust, and the up-and-coming generation prefer to sweep clean.

They’re Impatient for Advancement

They reject hierarchical structures and organizational silos

Could the learning and career development of new starters also be accelerated through social business? Online interaction with communities of peers, the organization’s specialists and end-users for problem-solving, sharing of experience and lessons-learnt, is already demonstrating impressive results according to the latest case studies. Is it time now to challenge the time-served approach to career development? Try appointing an early-stage graduate as a moderator of key discussion forums and watch their pace of learning take off!

The disruptive potential of social technologies is clear: both as a productivity boost and in the quality of results achieved for customers. As organizations search for the formal justification to roll-out social tools, they should perhaps turn to their newest recruits for inspiration to make social business “the way we work around here.”

Editor's Note: Paul's is the latest in our series on the evolution of the intranet and enterprise collaboration.